Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) program

Victoria is fortunate to be free of most of the serious diseases that affect animals in other parts of the world.

The Victorian Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) Program aims to boost Victoria's capacity for the early detection of such diseases in livestock and wildlife by increasing the participation of vets and subsidising the cost of investigating significant diseases.

Subsidies are available from Agriculture Victoria for the initial field investigation, including clinical and post-mortem evaluation, laboratory testing and a follow-up investigation of significant disease events in livestock and wildlife.

Livestock includes:

  • ruminants
  • horses
  • pigs
  • poultry.

What is a significant disease?

To be considered 'significant', one or more of the following criteria must be met for the disease event:

  1. An unusual or atypical manifestation of disease, including high morbidity, mortality and/or rate of spread.
  2. An initial investigation fails to establish a diagnosis, including when veterinary treatment does not produce the expected response.
  3. There are findings suggesting a possible effect on trade, public health, biodiversity or the viability of a farm, industry or region, excluding events where there is a genuine suspicion of an emergency animal disease.

Where there is a genuine suspicion of an exotic or emergency animal disease, the department will lead the disease investigation and cover the cost of the investigation.

If you suspect an exotic or emergency animal disease, immediately contact your local Agriculture Animal Health and Welfare office or the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.

Subsidies for vets

Eligible vets are those in private veterinary practice, zoos or wildlife parks.

Undertaking and reporting the initial disease investigation to Agriculture Victoria:

  • $300 plus GST

Undertaking and reporting a follow-up investigation to Agriculture Victoria:

  • $300 plus GST

This includes follow up blood testing where convalescent sera is required to confirm a diagnosis.

Laboratory testing costs:

  • up to $500 (not payable to the vet)

Procedure for undertaking significant disease investigations

Seeking authorisation

Where possible, practitioners should seek authorisation from their local Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer (DVO) prior to or at the time of undertaking the field investigation.

If the DVO cannot be contacted, authorisation may be sought from the Agriculture Victoria Senior Veterinary Officer (SVO) for the practitioner's geographical region.

Although it may be impractical to seek authorisation prior to or at the time of the on-farm investigation, authorisation for the investigation must be sought prior to the submission of laboratory samples.

Laboratory submissions

Specimens for laboratory testing must be submitted to:

Veterinary Diagnostics Services laboratory – AgriBio, Bundoora
Phone: 9032 7515

All laboratory submissions must be accompanied with an interim Laboratory examination sample submission form & Record of Disease Event (RODE) form.

Unless this form  is provided with the laboratory submission, the submitting veterinary practice will be responsible for the cost of diagnostic testing.

The Duty Pathologist will make a determination of the type and sequence of testing.

Any additional testing not indicated for the investigation, but requested by the submitter, will be completed on a fee-for-service basis by prior agreement with the submitter.

A final typewritten RODE is to be provided promptly to the approving DVO following the completion of the investigation.

For follow-up investigations, authorisation must be provided by the department and a separate RODE is to be provided.

Subsidies for cattle, sheep, goat and pig producers

Disease investigation is often hampered by factors such as reduced economic value of livestock and remote location of farms. To assist with overcoming this a subsidy is also available for cattle, sheep, goat and pig owners to reduce their costs when they engage a vet to undertake a significant disease investigation.

Engaging a vet to undertake a significant disease investigation:

  • up to $200

This subsidy is for the vet's:

  • consultation
  • disease investigation (necropsy)
  • travel costs.

It excludes medications and is provided in the form of a deduction from the vet's fee. The vet will then be reimbursed by the department.

The subsidy is only applicable for significant disease investigations authorised by Agriculture Victoria following application from a vet.

The number of such subsidies paid is subject to an annual cap.

Conditions of payment for significant disease investigations

Payment for investigations to vets is conditional upon the following:

  1. Authorisation by Agriculture Victoria for the investigation.
  2. Samples and interim RODE submitted to the Veterinary Diagnostic Services – AgriBio.
  3. The completed investigation reported on a typewritten RODE, along with copies of any submission form(s) and laboratory reports, to the approving DVO.
  4. If a cattle, sheep, goat or pig producer subsidy is being claimed, a copy of the veterinary practice's tax invoice to the producer must be provided to the approving DVO, showing the deduction of up to $200.
  5. An itemised tax invoice for $300 plus GST for the RODE, and if eligible, up to $200 plus GST for the producer subsidy, is provided by the veterinary practice to the approving DVO.
  6. The tax invoice should include the producer's name, PIC and a comment that it relates to a significant disease investigation, and be issued within 60 days of the investigation being completed.

Sudden death investigations

Anthrax exclusion testing should be carried out on all sudden, unexplained deaths of cattle, sheep and other susceptible livestock.

For cattle and sheep, rapid anthrax exclusion testing should be done in the field using an ICT kit.

To encourage anthrax exclusion testing, particularly in areas of Victoria with a history of anthrax, the department will pay private practitioners $200 plus GST for a basic anthrax exclusion in cattle and sheep. To be eligible for this payment, a practitioner must:

  • notify Agriculture Victoria of the suspect case
  • perform an ICT
  • report the summary findings to the local Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer (DVO) using a Record of disease event (RODE) form.

Your DVO will advise you during the investigation whether further samples are required and the appropriate method for dispatch of samples.

Where to obtain testing kits

Field testing of cattle and sheep carcases can be carried out using a hand-held immunochromatographic test (ICT). Agriculture Victoria Animal Health and Welfare (AHW) staff can provide training to any vets in your practice on use of the kits and will provide ICT kits to your practice at no cost. ICT kits can only be used by veterinarians certified by Agriculture Victoria.

Please contact your local Agriculture Victoria AHW staff if you need ICT kits or to organise refresher training of existing users or training for new ICT kit users. A series of online anthrax training modules for veterinarians can be found by referring to the Anthrax in animals webpage.

Positive diagnosis of anthrax

Where anthrax is suspected, the department must be notified immediately and the carcass should remain undisturbed and unopened at the death site until anthrax is ruled out.

To encourage this, cattle producers are eligible for a payment of $1,000 following a positive diagnosis of anthrax if the:

  • cattle carcass has not been moved from the death site
  • animal is found to be the first anthrax case associated with an outbreak (only one payment for an outbreak where multiple farms are affected).

Negative ICT result

Where anthrax is not suspected following a negative ICT result and a further investigation of the cause of death is undertaken by the practitioner (including necropsy), the investigation may be eligible for other subsidies following approval by your DVO.

Validation of anthrax ICT kit for sheep project

The Victorian sheep and goat industries have provided funding to the department to undertake a project to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the immunochromatographic test (ICT) for anthrax when used in sheep.

The ICT kit has proved to be a reliable method for the rapid determination of the anthrax status of cattle and sheep that have died suddenly. The test kit has been validated for use in cattle, however further field samples are required to finalise the validation of sensitivity and specificity of the ICT kits in sheep.

Within the ICT project, the payment for anthrax exclusion testing in sheep with unexplained sudden death will be:

  • $300 (+GST) per property

This is higher than, and is instead of, the general payment of $200.

Up to 10 sheep that have experienced sudden death can be sampled from the same property.

Only carcasses that are less than 48 hours old can be sampled. Sampling of multiple carcasses per investigation is strongly encouraged.

To be eligible for the $300 payment, private vets are also required to submit an EDTA blood sample and the used ICT kit to the department's AgriBio Bundoora veterinary laboratory for confirmatory testing.

The samples should be submitted using the project specific Laboratory submission form (WORD - 107.6 KB) .

The project will continue until 31 March 2023 and this industry funding for this work will not be available after this date.

More information

For more information, please see:

Further information

For more information about the subsidies for significant disease investigations and reporting, contact Animal Health and Welfare staff at your nearest Agriculture Victoria office or the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

Page last updated: 16 Nov 2022